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'Exceptional' Erling!

Updated on: 17 April,2024 08:29 AM IST  |  Manchester

Pep Guardiola backs striker Haaland who is being criticised for only scoring and doing little else; says he’s Man City’s best bet for goals v Madrid tonight

'Exceptional' Erling!

Erling Haaland. Pic/Getty Images

Manchester City are closing in on a second consecutive treble, yet Erling Haaland is still facing criticism as Real Madrid visit the Etihad on Wednesday aiming to exact revenge for their Champions League exit last season. 

The 14-time European champions were humbled 4-0 on their visit to Manchester 11 months ago at the semi-final stage as City went on to win the Champions League for the first time, along with the Premier League and FA Cup. 

Pep GuardiolaPep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola’s men are 12 games away from repeating that remarkable feat even without their prolific Norwegian hitting the form he did last season. Haaland’s return of 31 goals in 38 games this season is still impressive, but he has not scored in City’s three meetings with Madrid in the past year and failed to find the net in 13 of his last 20 matches for club and country.  Haaland, 23, has also been in the firing line for not offering anything other than goals. 

Also Read: Man City boss Pep feels ‘privileged’ to be in contention for silverware

City manager Guardiola has been protective of his striker, pointing to both his record and the collective success of his side in Haaland’s two seasons at the club. The English champions have lifted the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup already this season.

City hold a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League with six games to play and face Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday. However, it is by helping to retain the Champions League that Haaland can make a global statement and further his bid to win the Ballon d’Or—the annual award for the world’s best player. 

“The target is not the Ballon d’Or, the target is to win trophies and he did. Would we have won five trophies last year without him? Not a chance,” said Guardiola when quizzed about Haaland’s critics. “He helps us to make more spaces in the areas and his contribution has been exceptional since the day he arrived last season. [He] helped us score some of them [goals] by creating lots of spaces for the other ones to score,” he added. 

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